On Tuesday, Auburn City Council will be voting on whether to amend the city’s height ordinance to allow for the construction buildings with a height up to 75 feet in the main part of downtown. Proponents of the change say it will allow Auburn a chance to progress and attract new businesses to set up shop downtown.
Opponents say it’ll take away the character of downtown by having larger buildings eclipse some of the more traditional structures, believing a more strategic vision should be in place before changes to downtown are made, although a city Comp Plan and a Downtown Master Plan do exist.
The debate has been active for years now, and was most recently seen at a City Council meeting on March 20 that at times turned contentious.
We join in calling for the passage of this amendment. The proposal carries with it opportunities for economic growth and helps to make downtown more functional, both for students and for Auburn’s permanent residents.
We understand the concerns of Auburn losing its distinct, small-town characteristics. However, we feel it is wrong to view Auburn as a stagnant entity, immobilized by conceptions of its tradition. Auburn is a wholly functional city, and Lee County is one of the fastest growing counties in Alabama. It deserves to be able to grow in the best way deemed possible.
A possible result of the amendment’s passage would be the construction of a Southern Living hotel in the area from Quixotes to Regions on North College Street. The development would include a 120-room hotel along with a bar and grill, bakery, spa and wellness center on street level and a grocery store.
While a massive change to the downtown landscape, the addition of this development would bring numerous benefits to the town. A second downtown hotel means more visitors can stay downtown rather than far from the city center, eliminating the need for them to drive into town and park, reducing traffic. More shops and restaurants give students and residents more opportunities to spend money downtown, supporting local business and the local economy.
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A parking deck is also proposed, which will give much needed access to more parking, making all shops downtown more accessible.
A development such as the Southern Living hotel would be beneficial to Auburn and should be sought after, along with further projects that allow Auburn to be built up.
By building up, Auburn reduces sprawl and centralizes its businesses. This creates an appealing downtown area that isn’t detrimentally reliant on cars. Currently, there exists no easy place for those without cars or those who don’t want to drive to shop for groceries, evidence of needed change. This type of progress means a better town is left for the permanent residents of Auburn and is an improvement that could recruit potential students, allowing the University to grow as well.
Auburn City Council should amend the building code to allow buildings to be built at 75 feet. It will allow Auburn a chance to progress and for economic development to take place downtown.
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